'Fun bus' Leonard jumps on board with RFU

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The Independent Online

Jason Leonard made quite an impact on English rugby during the 13 years he spent at the sharp end of the international game 114 red-rose caps' worth of impact, to be precise. Yet if things go to plan from next summer, when the new Professional Game Board takes over the running of the elite game under a ground-breaking agreement between the national union and the Premiership clubs, the most revered front-row forward of his generation will be more influential off the field than he ever was on it.

Yesterday, Twickenham confirmed that the former Harlequins loose-head prop would complete their PGB quartet, which was always going to include the chief executive, Francis Baron, the director of elite rugby, Rob Andrew, and the former England centre John Spencer, a long-serving council member who for the last few years has chaired the Club England committee, which is now in its final months of existence.

Nicknamed "the fun bus" in his pomp, he was very nearly as good at drinking for his country as he was at scrummaging for it Leonard's appointment leaves the way open for the clubs to invite another of the hard men of the 2003 World Cup-winning team, Martin Johnson, to fill the vacant chair on their side of the table. The great Leicester lock has never shown the slightest enthusiasm for performing a hands-on role with the current Test set-up, but openly acknowledges his interest in taking a seat on the new politburo-style body that will wield something close to complete power over the professional game.

The clubs have already nominated the Gloucester chairman, Tom Walkinshaw, the Premier Rugby chief executive, Mark McCafferty, and the Leicester chief executive, Peter Wheeler, as delegates. The one thing that might conceivably derail Johnson's candidacy is a reluctance to have two men from the same club on the board, but this is not considered a serious sticking point. Johnson is not playing a significant part at Welford Road at present, and anyway, the breadth of his experience with England and the Lions reduces any such objection to a mere quibble.

Premier Rugby, the umbrella organisation representing the top-flight professional clubs, will not make a decision on this matter until the middle of next month at the earliest. The PGB begins operations on 1 July under the leadership of the Rugby Football Union chairman, Martyn Thomas.